Tag Archives: management

Build Robust Customer Relationships by Taking a Proactive Approach

By Jill J. Johnson

Jill Johnson-customer relationship

While today’s sales process can appear streamlined and online, it creates complexities and confusion for consumers who have vastly more options in a global marketplace. The internet has blurred traditional sales territories because consumers can now search the world for the products and services they want or need. Finding the right one requires them to weed through many alternatives so they can make optimal purchasing decisions. Proactively building robust and trusting relationships with your customers provides opportunities to become their top advisor and go-to vendor. Anticipating potential customer service challenges will help develop a framework for resolving these issues in a manner that protects your customer relationship. Software applications and marketing automation also create opportunities for enhanced customer insight and relationship development. 

Team Efforts Build Strong Customer Relationships

The most successful salespeople develop strong and lasting relationships with their customers. They focus on solving problems, not just making a transaction. They become an advisor their clients rely on for accurate information and solutions to address their needs. They are responsive and do not leave their clients hanging for answers. With this approach, you can anticipate opportunities for your customers and present new ideas when your customers are most likely ready to consider them.

Improving your customer’s experience will build word of mouth about your effectiveness as a true sales professional—rather than just someone who manages transactions. Click To Tweet

Successful sales and marketing team members work closely together to create synergies among all the communications being used to connect with customers. Production and service teams must also work in sync with sales to deliver the quality order that has been promised the customer. There is nothing worse for the client relationship than a salesperson making a promise that production cannot honor. In most organizations, the production or manufacturing divisions are siloed from sales. Each has its own metrics by which they are evaluated and there is often little communication among them. When that happens, the entire customer relationship can be at risk.

Enterprises that effectively calibrate and coordinate their ability to supply goods and services the customer demands will be the most successful over the long-term. They minimize waste and scrapped inventory because they are creating specific products their customers want and will buy. Sales relationships that have been strategized throughout the enterprise provide the best opportunities for gaining accurate customer intelligence on product specifications and anticipated sales volumes. The same things hold true for those selling services. 

Maintaining Customer Relationships Requires Trust

When working with clients who have a long-standing relationship with your organization, it can become easy to take them for granted. Personal relationships often develop among the various parties on both sides. Frequently this evolves into a high trust relationship.

When there is a glitch in service or delivery, client relationships can be jeopardized. Clients make buying decisions based on trust. If something significant interferes with the trust relationship, the entire account can be at risk. It may be a missed delivery, inferior product quality, service glitches or price-points that are too high. When this occurs, it can be easy for everyone to assume that the relationship will resolve the issue. But when it does not, everyone must remember that business is business. The personal relationships developed with care over time can vanish when suppliers make mistakes.  Both parties have their own jobs to protect and their own internal political challenges.

Often the best approach is for a vendor to operate on a “No Surprises” basis with clients. When they know there might be an issue with service or delivery, the sooner they alert the customer the more options they have to maintain the trusted relationship. Understanding the latitude and flexibility you each have when there is a problem can move you faster to finding a resolution. Perhaps it is offering a price discount for accepting some reduced quality options or including additional merchandise in order to offset the inequity. No matter what, your client problem needs to be resolved effectively before it becomes a social media nightmare or results in the loss of a major revenue stream to your enterprise. 

Effective Client Relationship Management 

Building and managing relationships with your prospects and key referral sources require effort. It is more than simply having them on your mailing list or emailing them newsletters or updates. More personal and consistent one-to-one relationships are a must in achieving your mutual goals. 

You have to move from passive order-taking to developing a customer relationship focused on knowing their interests and requirements. Then match your outreach and communications to move them through their decision-making cycle. Reassess your prospect management to determine if you are relying on stale efforts that do little to move the sale forward or deepen your relationship. 

Years ago, salespeople tracked customer information on index cards. Today, robust Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software has been a game-changer in managing interactions with current and potential clients. CRM integration with email marketing applications can enhance sales productivity and offer options for customer personalization.

Leveraging your CRM tools helps you stay on top of customer follow-up. This requires an investment of time in capturing information into the system. Once you do this, you can take advantage of opportunities to use its robust capability for data capture and market segmentation options. These efforts will help you more effectively manage your client relationships and provides options for efficient and appropriate outreach.

Final Thoughts 

Take time to review the effectiveness of your approach to customer relationship management. Don’t take your client relationships for granted. Just like any relationship, they need to be nurtured to be preserved and grown. Actively managing your customer and prospect interactions create more opportunities for engagement. Each engagement takes you one step closer to closing another sale or selling a bigger deal than you can currently imagine. Being your customers’ subject matter expert, anticipating their needs before they do and doing their homework for them is essential to successful and lasting customer relationships. Improving your customer’s experience will build word of mouth about your effectiveness as a true sales professional—rather than just someone who manages transactions.

Jill J. Johnson is the President and Founder of Johnson Consulting Services, a highly accomplished speaker, an award-winning management consultant, and author of the bestselling book Compounding Your Confidence. Jill helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has impacted more than 4 billion dollars worth of decisions. She has a proven track record of dealing with complex business issues and getting results. For more information on Jill J. Johnson, please visit www.jcs-usa.com.

Remote Control

8 Tips and Tricks for Conducting Stronger Conference Calls and Virtual Meetings

By Kate Zabriskie

Kate Zabriskie-meetings

Despite large advances in technology, few people look forward to participating in remote meetings. When fellow participants fail to mute their lines, don’t give the interaction their full attention, or commit some other virtual-get-together sin, the mood of the group quickly deteriorates. So is there no hope for the countless teams who must connect through broadband instead of boardrooms? Of course not. By taking eight simple steps and following some proven guidelines, almost anyone’s virtual gathering can improve.

Tip One: Keep the meeting’s focus narrow. The more specific your agenda, the less likely you will find your conversations jumping off-topic. For example, instead of discussing office security training, narrow the focus to non-technology-related office security for customer-facing employees. By shrinking the field of discussion, you may realize you need less time and fewer people to arrive at a satisfactory decision.

No matter what kind of remote meeting you run, you can make it better by increasing your planning, tightening your delivery, leveraging technology and people, and taking stock of what works at what doesn’t. Click To Tweet

Tip Two: State the goal of the meeting at the beginning, end, and several times throughout to remind people why they are there and how they are expected to contribute. 

Before we begin, I would like to thank Ted, Rhonda, Nel, Jerome, and Fred for joining the discussion today. Each of you comes from a different area of the business and can offer a perspective the rest of us may not readily see. As we move through the discussion, I’m going to call on you to offer your point of view. Our goal today is to come up with some preliminary topics for training our customer-facing employees on security measures they need to take to keep themselves, the company data, and our customers safe. When we’re done, we should have a robust list of non-technology ideas. We’re going to deal with technology during a separate meeting.

Tip Three: Think like a newscaster. Newscasters plan in segments or blocks. Your agenda should do the same, and your language should advertise what’s happened previously and what’s coming next. 

First, we’re going to talk about our current occupancy rates, next we’ll look at forecasts for the next quarter, and finally, we’ll review plans to ensure we make our forecast.

Tip Four: Steal a few more ideas from the news. Dialing your energy up by 10 percent to 15 percent and editing your content should help you increase engagement. Edits might include such activities as removing weak or uncertain language. “I’m not sure, I don’t know, and this may be dumb” have no place in any meeting—especially a remote one. After all, if you don’t believe in or know about what you’re discussing, why should anyone else?

Tip Five: If possible, use a platform that allows people to use cameras, chat, and screen sharing.

Cameras allow people to use their faces and bodies to supplement their verbal messages. Cameras also keep people honest, as it’s difficult for most of us to multitask or go on mental vacation when you’re doing it in plain sight.

Chat engages people’s fingers. If you are typing in a chatbox, you aren’t checking email, texting a client, or doing anything else unrelated to the meeting. Furthermore, chat levels the playing field and allows opportunities for both extroverts and introverts to weigh in at essentially the same rate.

Screensharing focuses people’s attention on the topic at hand. It’s human nature to want to look at something. If you can, do yourself a favor and provide visuals. One word of caution: do not read from your slides. If you put slides in front of a team, they’re going to read them. They don’t need you to insult the repeat what they’ve seen verbatim.

Tip Six: Assign roles. You don’t have to be the leader, timekeeper, notetaker, and so forth. Delegation engages people and allows the leader to lead the meeting. Of course, role delegation will work best if you model what’s expected. 

For instance, provide a notes template and an example of notes to the notetaker and provide the timekeeper with some instructions, “Ted, I’d like you to serve as our timekeeper and agenda monitor today. If we wander off-topic, please poll the group to ascertain whether we should deviate from the agenda or take the topic offline.”

Tip Seven: Be prepared to do a little warm-up as you are waiting for people to join in. That means jumping on a call early and giving people something to do before the start of the meeting. If people are regularly late to your organization’s meetings, this is especially important. If you are using technology beyond the telephone, this is particularly easy. For example, you might set up a poll with everyone’s name listed and take attendance by asking them to select their names from the list. You could also show reminders (e.g. how to mute your line) and the notes from the last meeting and request people take a minute to review them. The possibilities are endless. The main idea, however, is to ensure that you don’t lose people who come early or on time to your remote meeting and that you can absorb people who join late with little disruption.

Tip Eight: View your remote meetings as works in progress. Ask those who participate what’s working for them and what isn’t. As teams change, technology evolves, and workplace demands vary, what works now might not work in the future.

No matter what kind of remote meeting you run, you can make it better by increasing your planning, tightening your delivery, leveraging technology and people, and taking stock of what works at what doesn’t. The key is trying, assessing, learning, and repeating the cycle. Happy meeting!

Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised. For more information, visit www.businesstrainingworks.com.

Make Kindness the Cornerstone of Your Business

By Dana Morgan-Barnes

Dana Morgan-Barnes: being kind

Business is no longer a “dog eat dog” proposition. Instead, we are seeing how being kind, even in our business dealings, can make you “Top Dog.”

Ok, animal metaphors aside, why is being kind so good for business? It’s a known fact that we like to do business with people we know, like and trust. Kindness is a huge piece of that puzzle. 

When you look at your business, who is responsible for being kind? Customer Service? Of course! The receptionist or office admin? Sure. Do you manufacture widgets, sell a product or a service; are you a brick and mortar or an online presence; employ two or 2,000…kindness is everyone’s job. 

When you are the CEO or the business owner, your example will lead your employees in the right direction. Kindness does not mean having to be best friends with each and every employee. It means a “hello”, a smile and if you can, remembering their names. Be sure your employees know how to be kind to your clients. Often times, being kind is perceived as a waste of time. There are parameters and training will help them know what is expected and reasonable.

Many years ago Penny worked in the Accounts Receivable Department of a small manufacturing company. They had plenty of receivables but very little information on the companies. Name, address and phone number and sometimes the name of their accounts payable. As Penny started contacting each company, she wrote notes. Basic information at first: who was she speaking to, were they stressed or pleasant. As time passed, Penny knew their spouses and children’s names, vacation spots, illnesses and celebrations.

Imagine how you would feel if you received a call from “collections” and the first question is: how’s your son’s baseball season going? Or, did you pass that big test in your evening class? Getting to know your clients will help both of you build trust. 

This habit served Penny well when she stepped into outside sells. Being able to build rapport and be sincerely interested in her clients brought countless referrals and opened many doors. What would happen to your sells if you just asked a few more questions about the person before offering your product?

Who is responsible for being kind? Customer Service? Of course! Click To Tweet

Kindness can be translated into friendly, honest, reliable, solutions and service.

Be friendly: Being friendly builds rapport

You build rapport when you develop mutual trust, friendship and affinity with someone. Building rapport can be beneficial to your business when done with sincerity You establish good interpersonal relationships and this can open many doors for you. Being friendly goes beyond the obligatory smile and “how are you?” This may take a little time, but will pay off in having a loyal customer. Be friendly to your employees. Ask them questions, remember their names. It’s been said that an appreciated person will do more than expected. As the CEO or business owner, you lead by example.

Be honest: You want to be that person your clients know they can trust.

People would rather hear “I don’t know, let me find out for you”, than something made up. Offer what you can deliver, when you can deliver it. Never paint a “rosy” picture just to get the business. Charge a fair price. A client will find out soon enough if you over charged them. Advise your employees when a sale is coming, so they can pass that information along to the customers. Ensure that customer may wait until the sale to buy and they will spread the word about your good customer service.

Be reliable: You can become your client’s best vendor just by following through.

Always return emails and voice mails. Communicating with your client should be your priority. When a promised ship/delivery date cannot be fulfilled, reach out to the client to give them an update. You being proactive can turn around a disappointed client. Give your client ample notice of sales or office closures for holidays. Once a client knows they can count on you, they will return. Under-promise and over-deliver. This is what referrals are made of.

Be a Problem Solver: Customer confidence is built every time you solve their problem.

Make sure these solutions are in your customer’s best interest. An honest answer, even if it sends your customer elsewhere, can save a business relationship. Give your customers options. Often our client’s think they know what they want, but are unaware of what else may be available. When your client comes to you with an idea and is not sure what they need to fulfill it, show them how your company will go the extra mile to help them.

Be of service: Service shows you care

Go a step beyond what your client is expecting. Providing service is about the customer, it is not about you. When a customer has an issue and needs you to find a solution, do not let them down. Do your best to find a workable solution for them. This may mean bringing someone else from your company to help out. The majority of clients will tell others about receiving great customer service. Make sure they are talking about you! A loyal customer feels valued. Service equals value.

Dana Morgan-Barnes is a speaker, trainer, author, and coach. As the owner of Dana Inspires, she spends her career adding value to others. Her new book You Have the Power of Kindness is a collection of kindness stories aimed to inspire and help you discover how to be kind. For more information, please visit: coachdanainspires.com.

7 Reasons to Put Golden Handcuffs on Your Best Employees

By Patrick Ungashick

Patrick Ungashick-top employee

High-performing employees are often the most valuable asset in most companies. Customers, products, technology, inventory, and many other assets come and go. A company that cannot hold onto its best employees, however, likely cannot grow. Yet ironically, few companies take any formal steps to minimize the risk of losing top employees. Sure, you pay your best employees well, and presumably , have a great culture and work environment. But your competitors can offer the same incentives. To truly hold onto your best people, consider tying them to your company with handcuffs made of gold.

“Golden handcuffs” is a generic term describing a wide range of programs that share one core purpose—to incentivize top employees to stay with your company for the long term. There are many types of programs: incentive compensation plans, stock options, phantom stock, stock appreciation rights, synthetic equity programs, share bonus plans, and more. Making things even more confusing, each of these types of programs have variations in their design and operation. This complexity makes it difficult to approach these programs and select a plan design that best fits the situation. However, learning about golden handcuffs programs is worth the effort. They offer a unique combination of advantages and benefits that can help your company reduce risk, propel growth, and maximize value at exit.

Companies that design and implement effective golden handcuff plans can accomplish the following seven important outcomes:

  1. Reduce risk that top employees leave prematurely or unexpectedly. Golden handcuff plans accomplish this by offering a future compensation payout that is partially or completely forfeit if the employee should terminate employment prior to an agreed-upon date (such as retirement age) or an event (such as the sale of the company). To create the desired impact, the potential compensation amount must be significant—typically several times the employee’s current annual income or more.
  2. Incent top employees to help create long-term, sustained company growth. The potential for a future compensation payout orients the employee towards achieving the company’s business goals, especially if the payout amount is tied to long-term company growth.
  3. Create incentives for top job candidates to join your company. A golden handcuffs program offered to a desired recruit—in addition to competitive pay and compelling career opportunities—can be the tipping point that convinces that important hire to join your organization. 
  4. Protect the company against the risk of losing customers, other employees, or trade secrets should an employee who has those relationships and information leave. Golden handcuff plans should include a legal agreement which commonly includes provisions such as non-compete, non-solicitation, and non-disclosure language wherever possible. 
  5. Provide a way for business owners to create alignment with non-owner top employees around creating business value prior to exit. Many business owners are understandably concerned about discussing their future exit plans with their top employees who don’t have an equity stake in the company. In those situations, the owner’s future exit is a potential wealth-building event for him or her, but it presents career uncertainty and risk to the non-owner employee. Golden handcuffs plans build a bridge between owner and non-owner top employees, by including those employees in a wealth creation opportunity at exit and providing for their career stability. 
  6. Enhance business value at company exit, particularly upon sale of the business. Your future business buyer will often see greater value in your company if a golden handcuffs plan has been effectively implemented, particularly when the plan includes “stay bonuses” which incent top employees to stay with the company after a sale, typically for one to two years.
  7. Thank top employees for their service with the company. Most business owners want to thank high performing employees after they have given years of effective service to the organization. While golden handcuffs plans are primarily intended to incent and reward top employees, they can provide double-duty by also providing lucrative compensation awards in the future to the very same people you likely will want to acknowledge. 

Many business owners and advisors assume that a golden handcuffs plan requires sharing actual ownership interest with the employees who will be included in the plan. This not always true. Some programs such as stock options plans include the potential for actual ownership sharing. Other plan types such as phantom stock or executive bonus plans involve compensation and do not share actual equity. Sharing ownership with employees presents significant risks and downsides. Whenever possible, consider a golden handcuffs plan that pays out compensation to the employee rather than shares actual company equity.

Business owners and leaders need effective tools to motivate top employees, retain them for the long term, and drive company growth. Few tools have the potential to address all of these needs simultaneously like a well-designed golden handcuffs program. A little research here can go a long way to securing a bright future for your employees and your company.

Patrick Ungashick is the CEO of NAVIX Consultants, a celebrated speaker on executive and business owner exit planning, and the author of A Tale of Two Owners: Achieving Exit Success Between Business Co-Owners. With his wealth of knowledge on exit planning, Patrick has provided exit advice and solutions to business owners and leaders for nearly thirty years. For more information on Patrick Ungashick please visit: www.NAVIXConsultants.com.

5 Keys to Protect Your Company’s Most Valuable Asset: Its People

Providing Your Teams the C.A.R.G.O. to Succeed

By: Jason O. Harris

Jason Harris_team memberes

Your company’s most precious cargo is its people.  Each day that you walk into your office, establishment, and organization, you are responsible for cultivating the culture. You are responsible for fostering a workplace culture that is one based on commitment and trust. As you nurture and grow the culture of your workplace, it is imperative that you realize that your most valuable resource—your most precious cargo, as they say in the aviation business—are your people. 

As you look to understand what you can do each and every day to impact your company culture, you need to look at the ways you can best take care of your teams. The foundation of taking care of our people is creating and cultivating a culture of trust. It is only when you cultivate cultures of trust and commitment that you can truly begin to support your company’s most valuable resource: the people within it.

When you provide your people with the right C.A.R.G.O., you will create, promote and cultivate a workplace culture of trust that is bound for success! Click To Tweet

A simple way that you can create the professional environment that you want is to implement a model, the C.A.R.G.O. model, designed to create and nurture the workplace ecosystem that thrives on commitment and trust.

C: Creativity to address challenges

As you look to take care of your people, it is essential that opportunities are provided that allow for creativity. This creativity is useful for many things—primarily in addressing the many challenges that present themselves constantly in the workplace. When you trust and empower your people to harness their creativity to address and solve problems it does many things across the many levels of your organization. Freedom to be creative instills a sense of intrinsic trust and helps to reinforce an employee’s innate abilities and talents. Creativity to address challenges strengthens the case as to why you hired them to work in your organization in the first place. 

A: Access to tools and resources

When the right tools and resources are provided, people know that they have all that they need to succeed. Too often there is an expectation of the people in an organization that cannot be fulfilled due to a lack of resources or support. Effective leaders must be prepared to properly equip their teams with the right people in addition to the right tools and resources to set them up for success. Access to the appropriate tools and assets is imperative to creating and building a company culture that is rooted in trust. 

R: Responsibilities

It is essential that team members are empowered to own their unique responsibilities in an organization. When team members truly own their piece of the daily duties, tasks, and projects, it reinforces the reality that their work really matters.  When your team is aware of their value to the entire operation and that others are counting on them, like a combat aircrew, they will step up and perform to their best abilities. Empowerment of staff, ensuring that the training and processes clearly define and delineate their responsibilities, will lead to an empowered organization. This empowered organization will be full of team members that know what they are responsible for and ready to tackle the tasks at hand. 

G: Goals & Objectives

Goals and objectives of your team(s) and organization have to be plain, clear, and articulated in a way that the team members can understand and appreciate. The best leaders must share the goals and objectives with the team. Your team needs to know that its leaders are fully invested. In turn, it’s necessary for members of your team to share their individual goals and objectives with each other and the leadership. This ensures that everyone holds each other accountable. Beyond holding one another accountable, knowing the goals and objectives of each other allows you to know that everyone is committed, in some shape, form and fashion, for the greater good of the organization and each other.

O: Opportunities for success

As a leader, you must provide the opportunities for your people to succeed. These successes exist as large and small opportunities. When provided with incremental chances to succeed and win, team members will stay engaged and continue to be committed to the organization and the team. Consider opportunities for team members to succeed in the simplest ways, that lead to team wins, that lead to organizational wins. Everyone loves to win. Everyone loves to be on a winning team!

The most precious resource in your organization, the most precious cargo in your aircraft, is your people. As you conduct business each and every day, are you and the leadership team equipping your people to sustain themselves and your organization through the inevitable turbulence that they will encounter en route to accomplish their mission?  When you provide your people with the right C.A.R.G.O., you will create, promote and cultivate a workplace culture of trust that is bound for success!

Jason O. Harris is a leadership and trust speaker, consultant, and certified character coach. As a decorated combat veteran, Jason brings unique perspectives gained from his battlefield experience to your organization. Jason’s No-Fail Trust™ methodology was crafted from his own harrowing, life-altering experiences, and conveys the importance of cross-generational communication and mutual trust. Jason enjoys working with organizations and leaders that are no longer willing to settle for cultures of compliance and are ready to build and cultivate cultures of commitment.  For more information on Jason O. Harris, please visit www.jasonOharris.com.